Eight emerging and four established researchers across the University will join the York Research Chairs (YRC) program, York University’s internal counterpart to the national Canada Research Chairs (CRC) program, which recognizes outstanding researchers. Two of these appointments are renewals.
These YRCs belong to the seventh cohort of researchers to be appointed since the establishment of the program in 2015. These YRCs’ terms start July 1 and run through to June 30, 2025.
“Our new YRCs exemplify the extraordinary contributions of York’s researchers,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton. “York is committed to ensuring that our research, scholarship and creative activities are focused on the needs of the communities we serve and on the complex challenges facing our society – from climate change to racism. In the current context, as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, research focused on creating positive change is even more important. The YRC program is central to that commitment, and we are proud to support the ongoing excellence of our outstanding researchers through this initiative.”
The YRC program seeks to build research recognition and capacity, with excellence in research, scholarship and associated creative activity serving as selection criteria. “This program mirrors the federal CRC program to broaden and deepen the impact of research chairs at York in building and intensifying world-renowned research across the institution. These new YRCs are undertaking visionary work that has local, national and international impact,” said Vice-President Research & Innovation Amir Asif.
Tier I YRCs are open to established research leaders at the rank of full professor. Tier II YRCs are aimed at emerging research leaders within 15 years of their first academic appointment.
Tier I York Research Chairs
York Research Chair in Foundations of Operator Algebras
Ilijas Farah, Faculty of Science, singlehandedly developed the field of the applications of logic to operator algebras, revealing deep and unexpected connections between the foundations of mathematics and some of the most concrete and ubiquitous mathematical objects. A top researcher in both of these hitherto unrelated subjects, he was invited to speak at the International Congress of Mathematicians. He was also fortunate to supervise some spectacularly talented PhD students.
York Research Chair in Homelessness and Research Impact
Stephen Gaetz, Faculty of Education, is the director of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, the Homeless Hub, and Making the Shift – Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab. He has a long-standing interest in understanding homelessness – its causes, how it is experienced and potential solutions. His research is defined by his desire to ‘make research matter’ through working in collaboration with partners to conduct and mobilize research so as to have an impact on policy and practice.
York Research Chair in International and Transnational Legal Studies
Obiora Okafor, Osgoode Hall Law School, has had his YRC renewed. This renewal supports the continuation of Okafor’s research on Canada’s human rights engagements with various African countries, including in the sub-areas of economic and social rights, judicial strengthening, institution building, democratization and poverty alleviation. This work includes a study on Canada’s human rights engagements with the African Union as a body.
York Research Chair in 3D Vision
Laurie M. Wilcox, Faculty of Health, is a member of the Centre for Vision Research and VISTA (Vision: Science to Applications). Her research focuses on the neural mechanisms responsible for human depth perception and how depth information is processed under complex real-world conditions. She has a long history of collaboration with industry partners, for instance in 3D film (IMAX, Christie) and more recently in virtual and augmented reality (Qualcomm Canada) and image quality (VESA).
Tier 2 York Research Chairs
York Research Chair in the Regulatory Mechanisms of Inflammation
Ali Abdul-Sater, Faculty of Health, is interested in identifying novel regulators of inflammation and understanding how these regulators control immunity and the inflammatory response. He is pursuing several avenues of research: the roles of the protein TRAF1 in controlling inflammatory and autoimmune diseases; the role of Type I interferons (proteins made in response to the presence of viruses) in bacterial and viral responses; and how exercise regulates the immune response.
York Research Chair in Interdisciplinary Conservation Science
Sheila Colla, Faculty of Environmental Studies, is an ecologist using scientific principles to address real-world conservation issues. Her research focuses on the conservation of lesser understood native species such as bees, butterflies and flowering plants. She works closely with environmental NGOs, landowners, academic partners and government agencies to implement conservation management based on the best available science. She wants her research to inform relevant environmental and agricultural policy.
York Research Chair in Planetary Science
Mike Daly, whose YRC was renewed, is in the Lassonde School of Engineering. This appointment recognizes Daly’s outstanding contribution to space-flight instrumentation research at York. The YRC will enable his participation in NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and the return of Canada’s first sample of material from another solar system. Knowledge gained from Bennu could provide key information about the origins of Earth and the solar system.
York Research Chair in Community-Based Participatory Research
Sarah Flicker, Faculty of Environmental Studies, is an expert in community development, health promotion and adolescent well-being. Flicker’s innovative program of research focuses on the engagement of youth and other allied actors in environmental, sexual and reproductive justice. She works across methodologies using participatory approaches for social change.
York Research Chair in Linguistic Diversity and Community Vitality
Eve Haque, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, has research and teaching interests that include multiculturalism, white settler colonialism and language policy, with a focus on the regulation and representation of racialized groups in white settler societies. Her current research focus is on the recognition and language rights of non-official language communities in Canada. She is also the author of Multiculturalism Within a Bilingual Framework: Language, Race and Belonging in Canada.
York Research Chair in Quantitative Imaging and Smart Biomarkers
Ali Sadeghi-Naini, Lassonde School of Engineering, is an emerging leader in multi-disciplinary research at the intersection of AI, biomedical engineering, biophysics and oncology. His seminal studies demonstrated, for the first time, that quantitative ultrasound biomarkers at low frequencies can detect cell death induced by anti-cancer therapies. He seeks to develop quantitative imaging and biomarker technologies integrated with innovative machine learning and computational modeling techniques for precision medicine and personalized therapeutics.
Valérie A. M. Schoof
York Research Chair in Primate Behavioural Endocrinology
Valérie A.M. Schoof, Glendon Campus, is a primatologist whose research program, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and New Frontiers in Research Fund, focuses on the ecology, sociality, physiology and life history of wild primates in East Africa, and the biological, geographical and cultural factors influencing human-wildlife interactions. She is also the director of the Primate Behavioural Endocrinology Lab, recently funded by Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Research Fund.
York Research Chair in Theatre and Performance History
Marlis Schweitzer, School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design, is a theatre and performance historian with a specialization in 19th and early-20th century Anglo-American performance. Schweitzer plans to use her YRC to explore urgent questions about the relationship between historical casting practices, theatre’s role in the circulation and perpetuation of racist stereotypes, and the onstage representation of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) individuals in contemporary Anglo-American performance.